Fan-owned football club Barcelona is faced with a governance crisis after president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned from his role on Tuesday, 27 October. The rest of the board of directors have stepped down as well.
FC Barcelona is structured as a member owned co-operative society. The club is owned by 140,000 member-owners who also get to elect the board of directors. The club cannot be listed on the stock market and can only raise finance from fans.
Mr Bartomeu’s decision came ahead of a planned vote of confidence from fan owners. The vote of confidence was called after a petition asking for his removal as president gathered over 20,000 signatures with fans expressing disappointment with his management of the club.
In recent months Mr Bartomeu was strongly criticised by captain Leo Messi and defender Gerard Piqué. In August Messi announced his decision to leave the club, which failed to win any trophies last season. Mr Bartomeu opposed Messi’s transfer attempt, which led to criticisms from the footballer, who claimed he had been promised he would have the final say in whether he remained at the club.
More recently, defender Gerard Pique criticised the club’s management for allegedly spending money on a social media campaign against current and former players. Mr Bartomeu denies being aware of the campaign. Furthermore, an external audit by PWC ruled in July that the club had not commissioned a third party company to drive the social media campaign against current and former players.
Mr Bartomeu had been at the helm of the club since 2014 and had been re-elected on a new six-year mandate in 2015.
He said during a press conference: “This is a well-considered, calm, consensual and collective decision by my fellow directors who have accompanied me over recent years in a loyal and committed fashion with regards to the project and the Club, and who have made so many sacrifices thinking always of Barça.”
He said the board did not want to hold an in-person vote of censure given the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We cannot, nor want, to put ourselves in a position of having to choose between protecting people’s health and exercising the right to vote. For that reason, we have taken the decision to not call the vote and resign forthwith.
“We know that we will leave the Club in the hands of an Interim Board that, in the current circumstances of the pandemic, has no guarantee of being able to hold elections in the short term. We know that, and I hope that the Interim Board will be able to carry out our decisions to help the Club through the pandemic crisis. The desire of this Board of Directors has never been to hold on to power at the Club, as we have heard repeatedly over the last few months.”
The board was in the process of implementing salary adjustments of the professional sportspeople at the club, a measure Mr Bartomeu thinks would be crucial for ensuring the club’s future. Earlier this month the club announced losses of €97m (£87.6m) for the 2019-20 season.
Following Mr Bartomeu’s resignation the economic strategy president, Carles Tusquets, took over the role of president of the managing committee at the club.
The main function of the managing committee will be to call for elections to constitute a new board of directors, which it must do within three months of its members taking on their roles.
Before its resignation, the board also agreed to join the European Super League.